He’s old and battered and records unfashionable blues and hillbilly songs for a small label, but Dave Alvin is as good a lyricist as any these days. That’s evident on his new album, “Eleven Eleven,” where his sharp-eyed stories of the past are steeled by a hard-rocking rhythm section and his electric guitar.
The song “Johnny Ace Is Dead” transports the listener to Houston’s City Auditorium on Christmas 1954, where the handsome blues singer “in a sharkskin suit and alligator shoes” tries to impress the girls in his dressing room by pointing “a .22 pistol right up to his head.” It’s a true story but also a fable of youthful hubris.
Another death, this time of a former lover, is dissected on the lovely country ballad “Black Rose of Texas.” The blues-rocker “Gary, Indiana, 1959” takes us back to the legendary steelworkers strike, and the lilting folk song “Manzanita” evokes the singer’s earliest romance. The past returns in a different sense when three of Alvin’s ex-bandmates from the Blasters show up — pianist Gene Taylor and bassist Greg Boaz play on two songs apiece, and older sibling Phil Alvin sings a duet on the very funny blues tune “What’s Up With Your Brother?”
Kindred spirits: Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, David Hidalgo, Joe Ely
Shows: With Los Straitjackets on Friday at the Birchmere. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500. www.birchmere.com. $25. June 28 at Rams Head Tavern. Show starts at 8 p.m. 410-268-4545. www.ramsheadtavern.com. $25.